Although I am a culturally and theologically conservative Christian, I have never understood the obsession of some conservative Christians with the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools.
Back in 1980, the Supreme Court ruled, by a vote of 5-4, in the case of Stone v. Graham that a Kentucky law requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in each of its public school classrooms was unconstitutional because it violated the first part of the Court’s 1971 Lemon test and therefore violated the First Amendment’s Establishment clause because the posting of the Ten Commandments “had no secular legislative purpose” and was “plainly religious in nature.”
Some conservative Christians are salivating over a bill (S.B. No. 1515) recently introduced in the Texas legislature to mandate the posting of the Ten Commandments in its public schools. The short bill begins as follows:
relating to the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Chapter 1, Education Code, is amended by adding Section 1.0041 to read as follows:
Sec. 1.0041. DISPLAY OF TEN COMMANDMENTS. (a) A public elementary or secondary school shall display in a conspicuous place in each classroom of the school a durable poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments that meets the requirements of Subsection (b).
(b) A poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments described by Subsection (a) must:
(1) include the text of the Ten Commandments as provided by Subsection (c) in a size and typeface that is legible to a person with average vision from anywhere in the classroom in which the poster or framed copy is displayed; and
(2) be at least 16 inches wide and 20 inches tall.
(c) The text of the poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments described by Subsection (a) must read as follows:
Then follows the text of the Ten Commandments.
If a public school does not have a suitable poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments, it must “accept any offer of a privately donated poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments” that meets the requirements. If a public school has a poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments that does not meet the new requirements, “the school may replace the posters or copies with posters or copies that meet the requirements of Subsection (b) using public funds or by accepting a private donation.” Public schools that have extra suitable copies of the Ten Commandments must donate them to another public school that does not have enough.
If passed, the Act would take effect “beginning with the 2023-2024 school year,” or immediately if “it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house.”
To begin with, let me state what should be obvious.
Posting the Ten Commandments in public schools is not establishing a religion. And it is Congress that is prohibited from making a law respecting the establishment of religion, not the states. Most of the original 13 colonies had established religions. If the state of Texas wants to post the Ten Commandments in its public schools then the federal government should not prevent Texas from doing so. Under the Constitution and our federal system of government, the national government has no authority whatsoever to regulate, oversee, or dictate to the states anything concerning education.
But to conclude, let me state why I don’t care if the Ten Commandments are posted in public school classrooms.
From the very beginning of public education in this country, Protestant Christians have sought to use the power of the state to propagate their faith. This is always wrong. And as Bob Jones Sr. said: “It is never right to do wrong to get a chance to do right.”
The Ten Commandments are Jewish, not Christian. Yes, I know all about Judeo-Christian ethics and its part in the American civil religion. But why do Christians devote so much attention to something that doesn’t even mention the basis of their faith, the Lord Jesus Christ?
I think it is a myth that if Christians can get the Ten Commandments posted again in public schools then they can turn America back to God. These are the same public schools that promote transgenderism, homosexuality, anthropogenic climate change, wokeness, critical race theory, evolution, environmentalism, and socialism.
Public schools are government schools. They may be state government schools and not national government schools, but they are still government schools. Public schools should not exist. All schools should be private schools just like everything else should be private. This is the way it was in America for more than the first half of its existence.
Doesn’t one of the Ten Commandments say “Thou shalt not steal”? Taking money from someone and using it for the benefit of someone else—even if for a “good” purpose like the education of children—is stealing and violates the Sixth Commandment. Stealing doesn’t suddenly become right if it is the government that does the stealing. Congressman Ron Paul for years had a sign on his desk reading: “Don’t Steal; the Government Hates Competition.”
I am no more concerned about how the walls of a public school are decorated than I am concerned about how the walls of the headquarters of any government agency is decorated.
I support the right of the state of Texas to post the Ten Commandments in its public schools. I am just indifferent as to whether it should.
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